If My Jewelry Could Talk

Raising 4 kids around the world, we “lived off the land.” We did NOT take “America” in a container overseas to outfit our home. We went on treasure hunts & searched for “what’s this culture make that’s uniquely theirs, tells a story, shows their art & skills?” If jute carpets were the thing, we hung them on the walls of the tall tropical ceilings. In former Russian Central Asia, Saturdays were treasure troves. I’m no garage saler but I wandered streets filled with antiques once gracing dachas (private cabins), mansions and more. Carved mirrors or desks inlaid with leather no longer cherished, were sold for pennies to make room for uber-modern. Crystal decanters became our flower vases. Chandeliers lined sidewalks. Elegant china no longer fit their modern dream. Oil paintings, leather bound classics, silver work stuffed in cardboard boxes was cheaper than any Walmart wannabe.
My own parents raised me overseas too. For my high school graduation in the lofty Himalayans, they bought me a set of hand carved chairs and tiny table from Peshawar in the Vale of Swat in the Khyber Pass where Osama Ben Laden hid out in caves. We got carpets and brass for birthdays. There were no game boys, tv’s or apple products in the Himalayas.

Moving back to the USA, our children’s friends that flowed through our home called it a museum asking for the stories behind the furniture, wall hangings, table ware, water pitchers, foot stools & more. Most everything has a story, a life it lived before us and then with us. If it doesn’t, it probably doesn’t belong. Those stories get asked over and over and over. Things don’t really matter to us. Stories and the lives lived do!

An inventory of our home would be brass, oil paintings, leather, carpets, tapestries, carvings, china, collections of painted fans, mirrors, eggs, spoons from dozens of lands, weird trash cans, funky table games in bone, ivory, marble, jade, agate, blown glass, brass, sandalwood, stones from Israel, Samarkand, the pyramids, Mount Nebo, the Taj, the Bay of Bengal and more. A head count found throw pillows each with a story from 14 of 86 lands we’ve roamed, décor from 67 & jewelry from 48. Each corner you turn hides another treasure and story.

I have been asked to tell YOU some of those stories. The way I’m asked to do this is by making some of my personal possessions available to YOU. Yes. You read that correctly. Things don’t really matter to us. Stories and the lives lived with them do. So, WAR is going to start making available my own personal collection of artifacts, treasures and particularly my jewelry.

Many pieces I wear are made by survivors as personal gifts. Often I’m asked if I’m wearing one we carry. If it is board or staff come and remove it to sell “on the spot” while I stand talking to someone. I’m used to being stripped of my jewelry OR often give it away while traveling. When a flight attendant compliments it, I give it to her. When she asks to pay for it, I say, “No, just tell the world that it was made by a precious survivor and they can shop the work of her hands at warchestboutique.com.” Sometimes it is a piece we’ve never carried or no longer do.

No matter what, these pieces have traveled the world with me. They’ve run through red light districts, hugged crying children offered to me in sale, giggled with girls in a safe house while we talk about their dreams, or sat faithfully on my sink in the hotel or guest house at each stop along the way. I’ve worn these pieces in palaces with Princesses and attended royal weddings with them on. I’ve worn them to humble widow homes where the only place to sit is on the mud floor. They’ve attended banquets for hundreds of rescued where we twirl, dance, giggle, play games and dwell in the joy of being girls set free. They’ve sat through graduations of tiny girls and a few boys now raised to be doctors, lawyers, seamstresses, engineers, nurses, teachers or precious mommies that are to their babies what no one was to them. They’ve had soap bubbles and baby spit on them when we taught teen moms how to bath their babies. They’ve hugged a child with polio being hidden by her mom under her bed to protect her from predators. They’ve had too many tears on them to count and listened to the cry of my heart as I wept with, prayed over and comforted. Some times they’ve heard me fight my way through a crowd of angry men or stare down a predator that is daring me to pass him. Then they become my warrior jewelry, mighty and fierce shouting to those around me, “This was made by broken hands now set free, I dare you to defy that freedom.” Ah…If my jewelry could talk…

Click the picture above to find out how far our newest featured piece has traveled!

Today, I Wept…

Today I wept…again…as I signed a receipt from an inmate of prison with a history of abusing others. He sends us sacrificial gifts in his journey of recovery. These are not out of “penance” for his brokenness but out of joy that places exist for healing of those like him and for those he harmed long ago. No one was there for him as a little boy to hear his silent scream.

My mommy heart always makes me stop when I see his gifts and take a deep breath. Often little boys and girls who grow up to wound others were wounded by others themselves. I stop and pray for the tiny lives out there needing a loving, listening home. I beg God to place them in my way or another’s to show a gentle touch, a listening ear, a whisper of joy and worth in who they are. I’m so humbled by his precious gifts. Our pain and our brokenness break God’s heart as He loves unconditionally.

Jet-lagged, I woke early this morning to sit in the darkness of my living room and pray for the day. Take these words as a love letter. Mother Teresa said, “I’m a tiny pencil in the hand of a writing God sending a love letter to the world.” I’m no Mother Teresa, but my hope is this: Whether you read this from a cozy chair with your morning cup of tea; from your kitchen overflowing with dirty dishes and a herd of munchkins at your feet; from a lofty, ivory tower imparting knowledge to the world; or just from a bunk bed in a cell staring at four walls, I pray you come to understand that our hidden worries are known, and we’re loved by our Creator, worthy even in our messes and broken places, or from our comfy homes or offices.

The ancient truth which changes individuals and cultures is that we are stronger, more loving, and better able to navigate sorrow or joy when we intentionally choose to be a circle of protection and community of safety to each other. The key is knowing we are all alike whether learning from a prison cell, from our own mistakes, or others’. Humility binds us together. I welcome the gift of the penitent. Help us God to all be penitent, intentional, and in humility, consider others better than ourselves. This lesson comes from “the least of these,” from four walls of a prison cell, and a broken little boy, now a man, who shares sacrificially to heal others in ways he never experienced. God help us learn from him!

Laugh or Cry, Giggle or Gag… AND BE ALERT!

By Becky McDonald, President & Founder
October 14, 2020

My office millennials tell me there is an “issue” brewing on the internet. Maybe I should say “boiling.” It is a weird video by Kraft on Mac & Cheese with a play on the words “nood” (as in noodle) and “nude” (as in porn). Because kids are the main consumers of Mac & Cheese, it is rather odd that Kraft sanctioned this. It is obviously not professionally done. The woman’s eyes keep darting. But believe it or not, I’ve been asked to comment. I have three things to say.

  1. GO MOMS: Three cheers for moms that are ALERT to the smallest things. Usually, I avoid these kinds of things because “commenting” on some things just leads to further foaming at the mouth. Moms, however, do have a duty, and I love the fact that they are “watching” for what is inappropriate for their children. I doubt my mom, whom I love, would have even “known” of such a video. I know I didn’t—I had to be told by a mom of five tiny little men. Fortunately, I am no longer raising little people. Go moms for noting this and drawing other moms’ attention to it.

  2. SEXTORTION: Right now is the time to be extra vigilant in all things on the internet that your children might see. I just wrote an article for WAR, Int’l about a new trend in trafficking and warned that I would be speaking about the issue of Sextortion. For sure, a child might naively be drawn into something that you do not wish. I’m preparing RIGHT NOW for an eight-hour training on how to recognize the subtle signs of trafficking.

    I’m NOT saying this is trafficking. However, I am drawing people’s attention to SEXTORTION. This is real. The camera on your computer stays on even after you’ve turned your computer off. Through this lens, predators can watch your children dressing for bed (if in the bedroom), view your bank records (while I was on the East Coast a couple’s entire bank account was wiped out because there were bank documents lying in view of the camera on their computer), etc. To understand this better, read the breaking News Post below.


    I’m told Bill Gates puts his phone in a freezer. You needn’t do that—just put a post-it note over the camera when you’re done using your computer! This is an issue WAR, Int’l has been speaking into for over five years and has asked the Supreme Court of Michigan to address. It is finally coming to the attention of others. Pictures are acquired either through the camera or, as in the alleged case of the teen mentioned above, through targeting local girls. The “extortion” comes in when the predator shows the picture and threatens to “send it to their entire group of friends,” unless they are given more pictures. From there it escalates.

    I will be teaching about this very topic on Saturday, October 17, 2020, at our Civilian First Responder (CFR) training conference, and you are welcome to attend either in person or online. You can register for this training at https://warinternational.org/upcoming-events/

  3. LAUGH OR CRY, GIGGLE OR GAG. A word of caution to moms: Do NOT, I repeat Do NOT overreact. If you do and your children see it, you just drive them to the very thing you are seeking to avoid. Always remember that your reaction is where your children take their cue. If you’re afraid, so are they. If you’re freaked, they’ll wonder why and want to understand. You need to put on a stoic face and brush things off in their presence with an honest but unflappable demeanor. Let’s get real, please. I know we want to lock our kids up and let them out on their wedding day, but that ain’t happening. If you lock them in a tower, they will be Rapunzel and just climb down. If this does come up, please have a sense of humor and just talk it through.

    For your “homeschooling pleasure” (that’s a joke), I looked up the word “nude” in over 20 languages. Use this opportunity if it comes up—and you must—to be interesting, not frigid and condemning. I choose to laugh rather than cry and giggle rather than gag. Well, I’m not really giggling over this one… the news video, that is. But I did giggle at some of the words that mean “nude” in other languages. Just for you moms… here are a few:

    • Bengali: Nunga Punga (my kids know this word well)
    • Hmong: Liab qab
    • Irish, Maltese, Welsh, and Zulu: Well, they just say “Nude,” so maybe we are descended from those races.
    • Polish: Nagi
    • Swahili: Uchi (sounds like an allergic itch)
    • Igbo: Igba oto (Where is that language even spoken… hello?)
    • Catalan, French, Portuguese, and Galician: Nu
    • German: Nackt (Pretty sure I remember that from my grandma)
    • Icelandic: Nakinn
    • Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, and Serbian: Akt (sounds like Hogan’s Heroes)
    • Basque: Biluzik (sounds like bed bugs)
    • Danish: Nogen (I thought that was your head)
    • Dutch: Naakt
    • Albanian: Lakariq
    • Cebuano: Hubo (some Hobos are hubo)

    Just in case you decide to travel… (just kidding) beware! Seriously though… please read the link to the teen accused of sextortion. This is something you need to KNOW.


By Becky McDonald, President & Founder
July 4, 2018

This week the Military’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, was awarded to deceased Lt. Garlin Conner and given to his widow. Lt. Conner’s incredible bravery and sacrifice earned him many awards, including three Purple Hearts. His inspiring story is a reminder that it is in our DNA to rise up in a crisis and put the good of others over ourselves.

On a cold January morning in 1945, Lt. Conner ran into enemy fire and dove into a shallow trench in front of Nazi lines. He lay there in plain sight for three hours, directing Allied artillery over the phone as they took out the enemy. When the advancing enemy was only yards away from him, he ordered his artillery to shell his position, knowing he’d die. He did not.

Upon returning home, Lt. Conner went back to farming in Kentucky despite seven combat wounds that left him somewhat disabled. Two things struck me about this man and his story:


Freedom comes at great price.

It is not cheap. Bullets, tanks and nuclear missiles have price tags. Freedom is priceless. As an organization that fights to set the captive free in today’s wars, we know how expensive freedom is.

Our partners pour their lives out in the trenches, coming face to face with evil. Often they choose to live in situations that put their families at risk as well. They run into the darkness and lay in plain sight directing survivors where to flee to safety. Despite battle fatigue and combat wounds, they carry on through sheer will power and a powerful passion for freedom.

Our survivors struggle daily with the lasting physical and emotional pain that hovers over them long after their freedom. People may forget, but the body keeps score and remembers the horrors. Many of them rise up to return to the darkness, this time to rescue others cowering there waiting for someone to hear their cries. They join with us in being voices for the embattled.

Our donors sacrificially partner in setting the captive free. In the real theatre of war, there are eight people behind every one foot soldiers. Our donors and staff are quietly behind the scenes doing the hard work of creating a legacy of safe places. It’s only because of our faithful donors and faithful staff that the lights were on and phone bill paid when a 911 rescue call came in one Friday, resulting in a girl being rescued on Saturday and in a treatment program by Sunday. Our staff chooses to work in a nonprofit where the monetary rewards are not high, but setting captives free is priceless. They may suffer from secondary PTSD as they daily lift broken lives to safety, whisper words of worth and dignity, and do the numbing drudgery of paperwork to make sure our efforts are done decently and in order and with excellence.

Freedom in our nation is a luxury.

I remember well, while in boarding school in Pakistan, going to the U.S. embassy for a 4th of July celebration. The Marine guards stood tall and gorgeous in their uniforms, symbolizing what we believe in as a nation. I was in awe of men and women who fought to maintain the freedoms we have here. As an American girl growing up in Talibani lands, I understood how valuable our freedoms were. My girlfriends had no choices. In a worst-case scenario, we could get on a plane and fly home to the land of the free. They could not escape their destiny. I could choose what I wanted to do with my life, what I wore, whom I dated and ultimately married, what I believed or didn’t believe about God, who I played with. My playmates could not. It was chosen for them.

When my children were small, they mocked the fact that when we lived in the U.S., the McDonald home sported patriotic buntings from the 4th of July until Labor Day. But this little American grew up seeing what a lack of freedom meant for those I cared about. I wanted to hammer that into my babies’ heads. Hold your freedom with gentle hands. It is a luxury. Yes, we teach that it is a right. But my observation is that if someone takes away our “rights,” we react in the extreme. Unless you are very self-aware, believing you are “entitled” to something may mean you are not really grateful for it, but rather expect it.

I preferred my children to grow up seeing their “rights” as a luxury to be handled with gratitude and gentleness. Luxuries are those things you guard carefully, while rights are those things you demand. Entitlement can quickly slide into spoiled-brat mode. I wanted my children to understand the subtle difference. I will never take my “rights” in this land for granted, even when they are trampled on. Maybe especially when they are trampled on. Luxuries are those things someone worked hard for. Certainly, a man named Garlin “Murl” Conner worked hard for my luxury of living in this free land. He paid the price for my luxury. I am so very grateful for that. Now it is my turn to work hard for the luxury of freedom for those in my pathway that need freedom. This I will do until there is no breath left in my body…fight for freedom gratefully and with a degree of elegance and gentleness.


My other take-away makes me laugh out loud: This “little man” (as his wife called him), all of 5-foot-6, was a 12-foot giant of courage, a war hero, celebrated in the oval office and all over the news. Yet he finished his life as a farmer.

One of the questions I get asked all the time by college girls is, “How do you find a soul mate, a man of great character?” I shock them by saying, “Marry a farmer.” I have observed throughout my life journey that some of the men I admire the most—men with an incredible work ethic, who are responsible, salt of the earth, successful but not too big for their britches—started out as farmers. Abe Lincoln is one. The list includes Presidents, Fortune 500 leaders, faith leaders, senators, military leaders, successful business men I know, and on and on.

There is something about a kid having to slop the hogs and plow the back forty before going to school, whether they feel like it or not. There is something about those who work the soil that makes them capable, responsible, driven to do the impossible, and humbled by the things they have no control over (such as weather, in the farmer’s case). It’s not about having a fancy degree. Many farmers do eventually get those degrees. But they also just do what needs to be done.

Garlin Conner just did what needed to be done. He ran into enemy fire with a telephone, set up camp under the enemy’s noses, and directed one attack at a time, killing hundreds and saving thousands. His wife said he never talked about his “bravery.” He just came home and became a farmer.

I happen to be married to one of the hardest working men I have ever known. He did not grow up farming; his dad was a college prof. But he spent every day with his football buddies, who were all farm kids, and that work ethic rubbed off. People in small-town farm communities salt the earth and don’t get too big for their britches. Yet my husband grew up to get a Ph.D. and serve internationally for decades. I’m a fan of dating farm kids! Degrees aren’t what make character. Hard work builds character and teaches one to respond in the face of crisis with the best interests of others at heart.

Today the family of WAR, Int’l salutes Lt. Garlin Conner—a farmer who had the courage to do the impossible, who didn’t brag about it, and who then went back to tilling the earth despite crippling injuries that would have had most people fighting for disability and hanging up their plows. We also salute our staff, donors, partners, survivors, and constituency, who all deserve medals.

Light Will Always Triumph: a Personal Story

by Whitney Kristine Tompkins, guest writer June 2018

These days, I find it incredibly difficult to shuffle through the darkness that seems to engulf the world around us. News stations and online media outlets scream of the despairing situation in which our country, and the world, has found itself. From mass school shootings and political uneasiness to the sexual-assault culture, it sometimes feels as though there is no end in sight. So many people are walking through brokenness. As we continue to stare into the vast darkness of our current situation, it is easy to feel that we can do nothing except walk away. Many experience a desolation that no words could begin to express.

These moments of solemn reflection into the pain of our world and the heartache of other human beings often brings me to my knees. I am left feeling disheartened and discouraged. I question whether my passion for human beings and my pursuit of social justice are enough to impact the shattered world we live in. How can I, one person, change the darkness—and will my voice even be heard? It is so easy to want to run and hide from what is going on. In a world that fights hard to silence those who want to be beacons of light, the path of least resistance is to stay silent.


There have been times in my life when I received the gift of watching how light brought into a dark situation changed the atmosphere—when I experienced what it is like to have hope spoken into my own situations. Growing up, I struggled severely with mental-health issues and the pain that comes from the brokenness in the world around us. Some days required every ounce of energy and push that I had so I could make it to the next tomorrow. This became the story I lived every single day for over seven years.

Each day brought questions: “Am I worth anything? Is this pain going to end? Am I alone in my fight?” As time continued and I got older, things started to shift and the pain slowly began to ease. I began throwing myself into school and work, attempting to prove to everyone around me that I was “worthy.” However, even time and my accomplishments would not completely erase the wounds that I had experienced, and I still wrestled with the many scars left by my past.

This past year, that darkness began to resurface, and I experienced brokenness again. All the effort I had thrown into proving myself to those around me began to lose its power. My heart’s insecurities started to make me question whether I could ever have an impact on this world. Was there any way that someone as broken and riddled with pain as I was could speak light into the darkness? How could I even begin to think of trying to impact another person’s world when my own was falling apart at the seams?

It was around this time, in February 2017, that I applied for entrance into a graduate counseling program at a local college, to which I was ultimately accepted. However, I allowed the fear of my own brokenness to stop me from pursuing that program. I told them that I could not start and would be deferring my acceptance.

Fast forward a year to 2018. I started to get more involved at my local church and met a great couple whom I now call my second parents. While I was over at their house to watch the Super Bowl, I struck up a conversation with my “second dad,” who is now working as a counselor. It was through this conversation that he began to shine light into my darkness. He reminded me that it is broken people who can relate to the broken and hurting. Through this talk, I realized I did not have to be perfect to help change the world; I just had to be willing.

I am happy and excited to say I will be starting my master’s degree in counseling in the fall. I do believe it was this one conversation that opened the door for the light to shine into my life. For the first time in years, I allowed that light to illuminate a hope I can cling to.

It is easy to look around and forget that hope still exists and that it is worth fighting for. Don’t allow your brokenness or the silence of this world stop you from shouting into the abyss of pain. Tell your story and speak up for the broken. Do not fear, because you never know who may need your light to navigate through the darkness.